WHEN field naturalist Len Hubbard says everything in the Barakula Forest is a “survivor”, he isn’t kidding.
Some trees in the southern hemisphere’s largest national park are thousands of years old, still thriving today despite enduring hundreds of raging bushfires, surging floods and bone dry droughts.
Now, one of Barakula’s iconic bushfire observation towers which stood for decades in the vast 700,000 acre forest can be added to its list of survivors.
“This is such a wonderful project that will preserve the Barakula Forestry’s rich history,” Mr Hubbard said.
The Coondarra Tower – brother of the nearby, near-identical, heritage-listed Waage Tower – is being given a new lease of life at the Chinchilla Museum.
Part of the imposing timber structure is being restored for permanent public display, in a $140,000 initiative by the state government and Chinchilla Historical Society.
The tower was dismantled in 2017, having become a victim of technological advancement.
For some years now, 360-degree cameras have replaced man’s naked eye as a cheaper and more practical means of monitoring bushfires.
No longer do forestry employees need to man a rickety, 30-metre high structure while constantly on the lookout for plumes of smoke signalling bushfires.
Instead, in the Coondarra Tower’s place today stands a huge steel spire with a rotating lens, constantly feeding back live Barakula footage to Department of Environment and Sciences offices in Dalby.
The old timber fire tower was destined to be torn down and used as – ironically – firewood, until a group of local history buffs and former forestry workers set about keeping the tower intact.
The top section of the building has been resurrected at the Chinchilla Museum and is due to be open for public display in time for the venue’s 50th anniversary in 2021.
Plans are in place to also install an interactive monitor allowing visitors to view the live footage coming from Coondarra, where the old tower once stood.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to engage the museum’s guest with this new Barakula exhibit,” Mr Hubbard said.
Among the group involved in the restoration works is 74-year-old Charlie Hazard, a former forestry employee who worked as a logger in Barakula for a staggering 40 years.
For 32 years Mr Hazard’s family was one of about a dozen which lived in a tiny village within Barakula. The village had a single-teacher school where all of his children were educated.
“Once this goes, nobody knows about it,” Mr Hazard said.
“If it just went to firewood the younger generation wouldn’t have known what a fire tower was or how it worked.
“It would have been a shame to see it all up in smoke.”